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Review the Last Book You Read

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The Complete Tales Of The Unexpected, by Roald Dahl

It's huge, it took a few months of bedside reading, and it was excellent! Varying lengths of story, and a section of wartime semi-memoirs (well, that's how they felt to me). Always gripping, and amusing in their twists and commentary on people.

Completely recommended.

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Passenger to Frankfurt by Agatha Christie

Poorly plotted. :P

:angel:

No mystery. It doesn't even have a main character. The ending is NOT as bad as the ending of V: The Final Battle, but the fact that it brought that to mind says something.

Really, it's one long sermon against sixties youth culture. Not that I disagreed with it; I just wasn't entertained by it.

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Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie

The first book featuring Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. Although supposedly a novel, it's really just a collection of short stories (some with very poor mysteries) held together in a weak frame. Tommy (who works for the government as a spy) poses as Mr. Theodore Blunt, proprietor of the International Detective Agency ("Blunt's Brilliant Dectectives"), while his wife Tuppence plays the part of his confidential secretary, Miss Robinson. As they are only amateur sleuths, they draw upon the fictional masters for inspiration: Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot ;), Bulldog Drummond, etc. (which would have been more interesting if I had had a clue about any other than those three).

I imagine Christie had a lot of fun with these characters, but I didn't. :grr: I'm not surprised that Tommy and Tuppence aren't nearly as well known as Poirot and Miss Marple.

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Title: Debt of Honor

Author: Tom Clancy

Review: It's a tad over-long and a bit rambling in the begining, but it's a great yarn about a military and economic war with Japan. I've always been a fan of the John Clark character and he's put to good use here, as is Jack Ryan. The slow beginning is more than offset by the excellently moving second half which really delves into the conflict.

;) ;) :D out of Four

Title: Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire

Author: Steve Perry

Review: After hearing so much about it for so long I finally picked it up and read it. It's a great Star Wars story, but not necessarily the best written thing I've ever read. Nonetheless, it's exciting and fast paced. Highly recommended t any Wars fan.

:):P:) out of Four

Edited by Cartagia

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Different Seasons

Stephen King

A book of four novellas, actually, with three being familiar to the movie-going public: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (as The Shawshank Redemption, Apt Pupil (same name, with Ian McKellan in a pre-Gandalf age), and The Body (as Stand By Me, with Wil Wheaton). The fourth is The Breathing Method, and I would like that translated to screen as well. It would make a completely different film as compared to the others, which concern mortal questions and limits to the spirit of man, and while it holds no obvious answers, it would, as any good story does, leave the viewer with questions yet remaining. Shawshank is much the same story, although Red, our faithful narrator, is no dark-skinned Morgan Freeman, but rather a red-haired criminal, and events remain much the same. I think the film carries a bit more weight, knowing how much better it is to see such events than to have a second-hand perspective, filled with speculations and impressions rather than suggestions and expressions that actors portray so well. Pupil is chilling enough, and maybe too conveniently so, letting go too early so that what should be a climax seems too inevitable once you firmly realize what's going on, what the only thing that can happen will happen, because King is content to let secrets whisper than be blared, even for a moment, as all secrets inevitably degenerate to. Death is the loudest the blare gets, but death comes quietly, before the secret means anything to those involved. Body, meanwhile, stands boldly as a parable on associations, in friendship, in world-view, in innocense. King pads a little with unnecessary imbedded tales from his surrogate narrator (though the extent is unknown, though life journies seem parallel enough), but for the most part, he gives enough to get his point across. Method concludes with a bit more frustration, that he doesn't give enough (it is also the shortest story), but it also seems just enough, perfectly in line with the plot device folded within its pages. There are mysteries about life, he suggests, that are better left unknown and appreciated for what they are, rather than what we wished they were.

This being the third work (fourth, if you include King's collaboration with Stewart O'Nan on that Red Sox chronicle) I've read from him, I'm beginning to appreciate the literary worth of my hometown legend. What keeps King from the respect he probably deserves is that so many of his stories reside as much in Hollywood as they do in publishing. He's created himself an empire, and we're left to wonder if he is, after all, a tyrant or a prince.

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HMS Saracen by Douglas Reeman

An other of Reeman's naval WWI/II books. This book handles the story of a monitor and her captain. The book is divided in two parts. The first part handles the captain as a midshipman aboard a then new HMS Saracen in 1915 and their fight in the Dardanelles. At the start of the second part, the book jumps 25 years and the midshipman has now become captain of the old monitor. The latter part sees them fighting in the Mediteranean and culminates with the monitors' standoff to protecta convoy against a superior Italian battle squadron.

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Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective by Agatha Christie

Another of Christie's lesser-known detectives. No surprise here, either.

Despite "dectective" being right in the title, the main character is not a detective, but a former civil servant who compiled statistics. In his retirement he advertises as a consultant for those who are unhappy, using the knowledge he gained in his former occupation, and some elaborate deceptions, to make them better.

A series of short stories very loosely tied together, only a few could be called mysteries (and that would be a stretch in some cases). Most, I would say, were closer to romances. Christie did write romances under another name....

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First Among Equals by Jeffrey Archer

The book follows and depicts the careers and personal lives of four British politicians, each vying to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. One is a Labour man, a second starts as Labour but leaves than party in the early 80s to join the Alliance of Liberals and Social-Democrats and the two last characters are Tories.

I might not like Archer the man or his politics but he sure can write, so consider me a fan of his literary work.

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Not the Only Planet

compiled by Damien Broderick

Picked this up at the college bookstore, among bargain selections. Didn't read it for the longest time, in part because I almost never read new purchases for the longest time, and also because the cover art is deceiving in the way that it is not very inspiring of the quality its story may carry. Yet I'd originally picked it up precisely because I'd looked within and found things of interest. So when I finally got around to reading it, I found the short story collection every bit as inspired as I'd hoped. For the most part.

Lisa Goldstein's "Tourists" begins our journey, following Charles as he attempts to discover where he's taken his vacation. He never learns, but eventually learns that being lost, wherever he is, was a part of some strange destiny. Like many stories in the collection, it starts slow, but builds nicely. Greg Egan's "Yeyuka" is, of course, the same way, as we follow a doctor visiting some third world country, in a world that has virtually cured all disease, while of course there are some people who are forced to play catch-up. The whole thing ends up something of a predictable moral dilemma, skirting relevance with how deeply it explores its own themes. Limits of short stories, you say? Perhaps. Brian W. Aldiss explores "The Difficulties in Photographing Nix Olympica," the enthusiasm of it, anyway, and how some people can find it so easy to steel others' thunder.

Gene Wolfe provides the highlight of the volume with his beguiling "Seven American Nights," which relates an Arab traveler's notes from his visit to a post-apocalyptic America (published, originally, some two decades prior to 9/11, making its continuing relevance all the more haunting). Like other stories from the volume, there's a twist in the end, but this time it works, simply on the virtue of its irony, its reflection of preceding events. It's the longest story, but that's not the full explanation for why its characters seem the richest, its plot the most involving.

Stephen Dedman's "Tourist Trade" might have interested BoynamedSue, with its charade society for vistors, assuming guises of lost historical figures. But I think a little too much is introduced and left at the introduction here. Maybe enough to be clever, but not enough to satisfy. John Varley's "In the Bowl," is sort of a extension, another visitor, another unfortunate association, until it isn't. Except it deepens, perhaps more than any other story in the collection, which helps it stand out, even amongst its own quirks. "Let's Go to Golgatha!" was actually the story I had the highest hopes for, might have been the reason I bought the book in the first place. It's another one I might have used to sell BnS on. Except it ends up more a moral indictment than a wonderfully twisted lark, and doesn't have anything to really support such a conclusion. Which was unfortunate, and a huge disappointment. Include an exclamation point in your title, and there's more expected from you, remember that! Then there's Joanna Russ's 'Useful Phrases for the Tourist," which is exactly that, and its jokey reads is just amusing, and short, enough.

"Trips," from Robert Silverberg, comes closest to rivaling "Seven American Nights," and there are several good reasons. One, it's another longer entry, and two, it has the same unexpected poignance, as we follow Cameron on a journey through alternate realities, anchored as it is by a search, always, for his love Elizabeth. Why he chooses to do so is the toughest question posed to him, and what gives the story the relevance its otherwise anecdotal nature would seem to deny it. Finally, there's Paul J. McAuley's "All Tomorrow's Parties," which is another story that starts slowly and never really heats up, but nonetheless ends up producing a number of interesting points to think about, some that would be relevant to fans of Battlestar Galactica.

You can almost forget how much there's to gain from reading short story collections, if you haven't done it for a while, and that was part of what kep me from this volume, too. But there's a lot. And I've also been given something of an introduction to some of the science fiction I've been missing out on. In following up on some of these writers, which I hope to do, this, too, can be remedied. Worth a visit.

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The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis (dedicated, BTW, to his friend J. R. R. Tolkien)

Seeing The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe on the big screen inspired me to re-read The Screwtape Letters (and finally tackle Lewis' sci-fi trilogy, too).

"Letters from a senior to a junior devil," mysteriously acquired by Lewis, provide insight into the diabolical strategies and tactics employed in the corruption of human souls. Insightful and amusing. Highly recommended. :D

My Dear Wormwood,

...Pray do not fill your letters with rubbish about this European War. Its final issue is, no doubt, important, but this is a matter for the High Command. Please keep your mind on your work.

Your affectionate uncle,

Screwtape

:o

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The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Book)

A great screwball read. That is all. :D

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Battlecruiser by Douglas Reeman

The book handles the captain of the fictious Renown class battlecruiser HMS Reliant. After his previous ship was sunk by a German heavy cruiser, Guy Sherbrooke is giving command of the Reliant after her captain committs suicide after discovering his wife is having an affair with the rear admiral commanding the squadron. Sherbrooke is to step in to the void and faces not only his own inner demons but in the end the hostility of the career minded rear admiral. In the end all's well as Sherbrooke gets a girl and manages to beat a modern Italian battleship.

All Reeman's books have the same central recurring theme: the emotionally torn and battle scarred naval hero who ultimately finds love and in the end overcomes daunting odds to beat the enemy.

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Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis

The first book in Lewis' sci-fi trilogy. A vacationing Cambridge professor named Ransom is kidnapped and taken to Malacandra (a planet in our solar system).

Old-fashioned sci-fi of the type of H. G. Wells or Jules Verne. I can't really say that there was much story to it: it seemed to be mostly background set-up. And, knowing who the author was, I was able to guess the set-up early on. It certainly wasn't as good as any of the Chronicles of Narnia. Lewis is such a good writer, though, that, despite all that, I found it interesting.

Now, on to book two: Perelandra.

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Angels and Demons

A very nice read. I didn't really care for the ending, just because Brown tried to throw in way too many twists and turns in the last 50 pages.

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It's indeed a very good book. :scared: Personally, I rate it very much higher than "The Da Vinci Code"...

I especially like you never have a clue throughout the book who eventually is the bad guy.

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Post Office

by Charles Bukowski

Second book in a row I would recommend to BoynameSue...Starting to feel like I should apologize or something...Anyhoo, the famous literary rebel Bukowski's first novel follows Hank Chinaski in his career with the postal service, from substitute carrier to mail room sorter, and all the miseries his life entails, his misbegotten loves, his alcoholism, his luck at the racetrack. Chinaski is a wonderful narrator, the book is an easy read (doesn't hurt, either, that it's one of those short ones made to look longer with large type, large spaces, so it reaches about 200 pages), and his arc is a natural, breazy one, which you wish you didn't relate with so much.

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The Iron Pirate by Douglas Reeman

An other typical Reeman war novel with all the usual ingredients but with one big atypical thing: the main protagonist is a German. The story is that of a fictional German heavy cruiser from the Hipper class and her captain and how in 1944 she is send on a merchant raid in the Atlantic. Normally Reeman's characters are invariably British with this exception.

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N or M? by Agatha Christie

WWII counter-espionage with Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. Not wanted for the war effort because of their age, T & T nevertheless manage to find unofficial work bringing down a German spy ring, thus foiling their invasion plans, and saving England from the Fifth Column.

Christie's international intrigues are not nearly as good as her straight mysteries, and Tommy and Tuppence are not nearly as interesting as Poirot or Marple.

Meh. :lol:

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Money Mischief: Episodes in Monetary History by Milton Friedman

A very concise look at monetary history. The central theme that runs through the book is how money has historically always been based on some form of commodity (precious metals like gold and silver), and how relatively new our current fiat system is. The author looks at early attempts by the United States to enact paper-based systems, and how they always ended due to debasement and inflation. The author also talks about the differences in monometallism and bimetallism, and how France was able to sustain a stable bitmetallic standard from the early 18th Century to the mid-19th Century, without it degenerating into a monometallic system.

Edited by 1stOmetiklan

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A God in Ruins by Leon Uris

This book chronicles the live of presidential candidate Quinn O'Connell. O'Connell is a democratic governor from Colorado running against the Republican incumbent - who is somewhat Bill Gates like in disguise. Due to a national disaster, O'Connell's call for unity and caring is taken over by the populace. Then a mere week before the elecions, the catholic O'Connell - who was adopted by his parents - finds out he's a "stolen" Jewish boy and reveals this to the populace. Racist riots ensue and his opponent tries to exploit both the revelation and the riots but in the end O'Connell still prevails.

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Jude the Obscure

by Thomas Hardy

Welcome to the book that's been screwing with me. And the even more screwy thing is how I ended up reading it, but I won't get into that here. This is the story of Jude Fawley, an aspirant who got caught in the middle of two women of opposing dispositions,both of whom help ed drive him to his death, which ended a life of general misery. I wish I didn't identify with so much of it. Anyhoo, Hardy's last novel is worth remembering.

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Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie

Some good, some not so good; but altogether, Christie was better at novels than short stories.

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

Excellently devised murder. However, the story used to reveal it, while OK, didn't measure up to it.

Enough Christie for a while. Back to Wodehouse.

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